The Wars of the Successors: Antigonus Takes the East

Post updated on 24.8.13
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This post continues the account of the Second War of the Diadochi, inspired by my reading of Robin Waterfield’s Dividing the Spoils. For the first part of the post, please click here.

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Antigonus vs Eumenes

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Antigonus
Antigonus was riding on a high after the First War of the Diadochi. He had an army of 70,000; the surviving loyalist Successors had (albeit at his request) given him the title of Royal General of Asia; they had authorised him to hunt down and destroy the surviving Perdiccan allies; to that end, he had chased Eumenes into the Mountains of Cappadocia, and defeated Alcetas decisively in battle (leading to Perdiccas’ brother’s suicide). To top it all, he was busy getting rid of the neighbouring satraps whom Antipater had placed in office at Triparadeisus to act as a counterweight to Antigonus’ power. It was a good time to be an Antigonid, and in the next three years, despite the early upset of Eumenes’ treachery, it would get even better.
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As stated in the first post, Cassander came to Antigonus’ court after failing to get enough support in Macedon for a rebellion against Polyperchon. Antigonus must have been very happy to see Antipater’s son as his presence could only give his expulsion of the neighbouring satraps a veneer of legitimacy: Antipater appointed you, but his son agrees with me that you are no longer fit for office. Or similar.
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Antigonus and Arrhidaeus
Around the same time as he and Cassander were trash talking Antipater, Antigonus moved against Arrhidaeus who had tried unsuccessfully to break his siege of Eumenes’ mountain fastness in Cappadocia. He trapped Arrhidaeus in the city of Cius* and left him there while he marched against White Cleitus in Lydia** (As far as I am aware this is the last we hear about Arrhidaeus in the historical record). White Cleitus strengthened his Lydian garrisons but did not hang around to see how they would fare against Antigonus’ army, choosing instead to flee to Macedon. With him went Antipater’s son and now former satrap of Cappadocia, Nicanor.

As detailed in the last post, White Cleitus would return to Asia Minor to help Arrhidaeus. As for Nicanor, he would be killed in Macedon by Olympias in 317.
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North western Asia Minor
** Western Asia Minor.
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Antigonus and his windfall
Antigonus had chased Eumenes into the Cappadocian mountains in the Spring of 319. The siege that followed ended almost exactly a year later when Eumenes agreed to submit to Antigonus’ authority. Antigonus not only let Eumenes live but gave him back his satrapy. All he asked for in return was an oath of loyalty. Despite giving it, Eumenes would defect to Polyperchon’s side only a few months later.
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That was still to happen; in the meantime, Antigonus returned west and took Ephesus. No sooner had he done so than what should happen but a flotilla carrying 600 talents to Macedon sailed into the port. Well, you can bet Antigonus took that. I don’t know who was responsible for sending the money but I’m glad I wasn’t near them when they discovered what had happened.
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Eumenes’ and the loyalist Successors
Eumenes was still in Cappadocia when he accepted Polyperchon’s offer, so this made it easy for him to evade Antigonus’ men on his way south to Cilicia. At this point, he had an army of 15,000 but he still needed more troops.
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To get them he had to convince the other loyalist Successors that he did not believe himself to be better than they. So, he wrote to them claiming to have seen Alexander in a dream giving orders to a ‘council of senior officers’, and suggested that they meet to ‘simulate this scene’ (Waterfield, p. 93).
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At Eumenes’ suggestion the meeting took place (in the summer of 318) in front of a throne belonging to the late king, and his royal regalia. I doubt very much the Successors believed that Eumenes had really seen Alexander. At any rate, it did not stop them from conspiring against him. Ptolemy, for example, straight out offered the Macedonian veterans cash to not help the Cardian. Classy. But if that seems blunt, Antigonus just sent a message ordering the same men to either execute Eumenes or be treated as enemies. In response, Eumenes reminded the soldiers that he rather than Antigonus represented legitimate authority, which I presume is a reference to his appointment by Polyperchon as Royal General of Asia; either way, it was enough to placate men who, it has to be said, had already been softened up by Eumenes through flattery and assurances.
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I don’t know if Eumenes got the troops he needed but he was at any rate still alive so that was a success. After the meeting, and with Antigonus’ army now approaching, Eumenes took his army to Phoenicia, prompting Ptolemy to withdraw his troops from the region. There, Eumenes sent as many (Phœnician) ships as he could find to help Polyperchon. Before they could cross the Aegean, though, they were captured by Antigonus’ fleet, whereupon the ships’ captains immediately changed sides.
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Eumenes turns east
In the autumn of 318 Eumenes left Phoenicia (prompting Ptolemy to send his men back), and headed east to ask one (or more) of the eastern satraps for their support against Antigonus. Eumenes spent the winter encamped on the Babylonian border while he negotiated with Seleucus and Peithon. I wonder what Peithon thought of Eumenes’ arrival – he was in Babylon already, having come to ask Seleucus to give him troops in his war against the other eastern satraps; Peithon wanted to expand his power in the region.

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The Winter of 318-17
Unfortunately for Eumenes not only did the negotiations go nowhere but Seleucus accused him of holding an illegitimate command (as a result of his condemnation at Triparadeisus). Seleucus may have meant what he said but as Waterfield notes (p.95) he may also have been concerned not to do anything that alienated the powerful Antigonus.
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For his part, Antigonus wintered in Mesopotamia (driving out the governor who was friendly to Eumenes). While there he paused to build up his army for any coming battle. He also negotiated with Seleucus and Peithon. He stayed in Meso through to the Spring on 317.
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Eumenes’ Coalition
Early in 317, Eumenes gave up trying to win Seleucus’ or Peithon’s support (the latter had rather peevishly tried to turn his men against him) and wrote to Peucestas and the eastern satraps requesting a meeting in Susa. Under threat from Peithon they were more amenable to the formation of an alliance.
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However, although they were fighting a common enemy this didn’t mean that the satraps were necessarily friendly to Eumenes; Peucestas, Antigenes and the other eastern satraps were much more used to leading than being led. Eumenes got round this problem by pulling the old let’s meet as equals in front of Alexander’s throne and regalia trick again. Well, it worked, and at the end of their meeting, the new allies left Susa heading north east to await Antigonus’ arrival.
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Antigonus’ new allies
In May 317 Antigonus finally secured the loyalty of Seleucus and Peithon. There was no question of who was in charge in their alliance, though. When Antigonus set off after Eumenes he did so as the undisputed head of his army. Seleucus and Peithon travelled with him as his subordinates. Leaving Babylon they made their way to Susa.
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Fourth Battle
Antigonus vs Eumenes (I)

Antigonus left Seleucus in Susa to deal with the citadel, and continued after Eumenes. They met one another at the Coprates River (modern day Dez). Waterfield (p. 97) reports that 10,000 of Antigonus’ men had crossed the river by the time Eumenes arrived to confront them; but they were not heavily armed for their main purpose was to forage. Eumenes, therefore, won an easy victory, killing hundreds and taking 4,000 prisoner.
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Antigonus Goes To Ecbatana
After this mauling, and to escape the summer heat, Antigonus took a short cut over tribal lands to Ecbatana. He suffered further losses along the way from waspish local tribesmen.
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Eumenes’ in Persepolis
Antigonus’ withdrawal to Ecbatana gave Eumenes an opportunity to return to the west. The city was so far north he would never be able to march his men into battle before Eumenes was long gone. We’ll never know if this was Eumenes’ chance to win his portion of the western empire as he was held back by his allies who had no wish to leave their satrapies. Eumenes could have gone on alone, but that would have defeated the object of coming east in the first place. So, he reluctantly agreed to stay put and marched to Persepolis, scene of the famous fire during Alexander’s visit thirteen years earlier.
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Party in Persepolis
It’s summer. It’s hot. The wine if flowing and  the food is piled high. You would have thought that the coalition would have been able to relax a little, wouldn’t you. But no, it didn’t. Instead, Peucestas tried to undermine Eumenes. Eumenes responded by producing a forged letter that said Olympias had taken Macedon, Cassander was dead, and that Polyperchon had invaded Asia Minor. The aim of the letter was to persuade the rank and file that it would make no sense to undermine him, and it worked.
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The happy atmosphere (ha) in Persepolis was eventually broken by the news that Antigonus had broken camp in Media and was marching towards Persis. Eumenes marched out of Persepolis to confront him.
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Fifth Battle
Antigonus vs Eumenes (II)

It was now late October (317 BC). This battle (which took place at 
Paraetacene) was really just a series of skirmishes, because before anything bigger could develop both Antigonus and Eumenes started to run out of supplies. Realising his predicament, Antigonus sent some men to nearby Gabene (modern day Isfahan) to get food. When Eumenes found out what he was doing, he sent ‘deserters’ into Antigonus’ camp to warn the general that his enemy intended to attack him that very night. Antigonus put the camp on alert only for… nothing to happen. Eumenes used the time that Antigonus was awaiting his attack to make his own way to Gabene.
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It did not take Antigonus long to find out that Eumenes had – as we say in Britain – mugged him off. Determined not to be made a fool of, he set out after the coalition with a detachment of cavalry. Peithon followed on with the infantry.
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Seeing Antigonus approaching, Eumenes assumed that the entire Antigonid army had come so he drew up his men in battle formation. Because Antigonus had the high ground, Eumenes didn’t attack. This gave the rest of Antigonus’ army time to arrive.
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Antigonus arranged his men so that Macedonians would not have to fight their countrymen. He placed Peithon on the left wing, while his son Demetrius was given command of the heavy cavalry on the right. Antigonus had war elephants at his disposal; they went on the middle and right wing.
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Battle was joined. At first, it went Eumenes’ way. Antigonus’ war elephants were kept at bay (they were removed from the battlefield thereafter) and Peithon’s light infantry was broken; a tough battle took place in the phalanx before Antigenes’ veterans broke through the Antigonid ranks. In doing so, however, they left a gap between themselves and Eumenes’ left wing. Antigonus saw it and ordered his cavalry forward. They smashed through Eumenes’ line causing chaos in the left wing.
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Despite this setback, Eumenes was able to restore order; the two sides renewed their fight but were soon forced to disengage by the coming night. Who won, then? Well, Waterfield states (p. 99) that Antigonus lost four times as many men as Eumenes so that would appear to give the latter the victory. However, that is not how battles were decided in antiquity. As you may know, the deciding factor was who had control of the field at the end of the battle. And here, Eumenes’ men ceded victory to Antigonus by walking away – literally;’ they upped swords and returned to their camp. Eumenes must have been hopping mad. Antigonus less so. He collected his dead and such spoils as were left behind and retreated to Media for the winter. He was lucky to be alive.
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Eumenes didn’t have the capacity to keep his army together over winter so sent it to separate winter camps. When Antigonus heard what he had done, he decided to launch a surprise attack – for not only did Eumenes have fewer men around him now he was (as was common for his time) in an unfortified camp.
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Sixth Battle
Antigonus vs Eumenes (III)
Antigonus knew that Eumenes would be watching the Median road so decided to approach him from across a salt plain that divided the two armies. To preserve the element of surprise he ordered no fires to be lit during the journey. What damage could a small fire do? I have a friend who was in the army for a while and when we discussed this he told me how he had once done night exercises during which the officer-in-charge had lit a flame some distance away. In the dark, with no light pollution whatsoever, it was very clearly visible. If you ever see the film Enigma you will get a good example of how visible it was, and what the consequences of lighting a flame in dangerous territory can be.
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Unfortunately for Antigonus, his order was not obeyed. After a few days, some soldiers did light a fire. It was seen by natives who went and told Eumenes. The natives had bought Eumenes four days to do something – although what could he do? It would take him nearly a week to reunite all his army. Peucestas suggested a ‘tactical withdrawal’ (Waterfield, p. 100) while the army was recalled. That’s good advice, in my view, but Eumenes had a better idea. Taking Antigonus’ soldiers’ lead, he had his men light fires to give the impression that his whole army was already present. This fooled Antigonus and, having lost the element of surprise against the reunited army, he turned his army north of Eumenes’ camp
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Buoyed by this little success, Eumenes set about fortifying his camp. Antigonus was not fooled for long, and attacked him; his assault was repelled. The last of Eumenes’ army reached him not long later and the stage was set for what would prove to be the final showdown between the two generals.
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Despite having a general of genuine distinction, morale was low in Eumenes’ camp. There was even a rumour going round that he had lost his commission when Adea Euridike ‘persuaded’ Philip Arrhidaeus to sack Polyperchon as regent.
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Seventh Battle
Antigonus vs Eumenes (IV)
Waterfield tells us (p. 101) that Antigenes opened this battle by having his men shout (rather unsportingly, I think) at Antigonus’ phalanx, “You assholes are sinning against your fathers, the men who conquered the world with Philip and Alexander!”. There’s really no need for that kind of language.
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Antigonus lined his army up just as he did at Paraetacene. Unusually for a general, Eumenes took his place on the left wing of his army rather than the right. This meant that he would fight Antigonus directly. Given how he killed Neoptolemus in a duel, though, I doubt the prospect scared him.
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The battle opened with the usual skirmishes. Once again, it went Eumenes’ way to begin with as Antigenes’ veterans again beat their opposites into a bloody pulp. Things started to go wrong, however, when Peucestas gave way with almost indecent haste. Was he the reason why Eumenes had positioned himself on the left wing? Had Antigonus got to him – just as Ptolemy, very likely, got to Perdiccas’ men?
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Despite Peucestas’ poor showing, Eumenes stood tall and continued the fight. Thousands of Antigonid soldiers were killed. Eumenes’ losses numbered in the hundreds. Staring defeat in the face, Antigonus played his last hand, and what a hand it was. He ordered his cavalry to attack Eumenes’ undefended baggage train – exactly the same move that Eumenes had pulled on Neoptolemus in 320.
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If only Eumenes had stayed on his left wing, he might have seen the cavalrymen ride past but he was now on the right, preparing for the cavalry’s final push against Antigonus, and so missed it all. By the time he learned what had happened, the baggage train had been lost.
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To make matters worse, night was drawing on. Peucestas refused to join the cavalry charge. Eumenes was forced to disengage. That night, he told his allies and men not to worry about the baggage train – they would recover it tomorrow; and they probably would have as well, for Antigonus’ army was certainly a busted flush. But the men refused to fight on in the knowledge that their wives and children were in enemy hands. The eastern satraps told Eumenes that they were returning home. In fact, as Waterfield notes (p. 102) they had decided even before the final battle to do away with him after they had won, anyway. Messengers were sent to Antigonus’ camp to ask after the captives. Antigonus replied that the families would be returned – if Eumenes was handed over to him.
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That is what happened. Eumenes and other senior officers were taken prisoner and handed over to Antigonus who executed them. Antigenes’ reward for leading the unstoppable veterans was to be thrown into a pit and burned alive. Eumenes’ army defected en masse to Antigonus’ side. As for Eumenes, it was a poor end for the secretary who turned out to be one of the best generals out of all the Successors.
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Aftermath
Following the battle, Antigonus returned to Ecbatana. When Peithon tried to persuade some of his troops to help him in his empire building Antigonus summoned him to Ecbatana. Why did he go? Because Antigonus assured him of his safety, that’s why; I don’t think you need me to tell you, though, what happened next. Upon his arrival, Peithon was arrested, tried, and – of course – executed, thus becoming the second prominant Macedonian to die in Ecbatana after Hephaestion in 324.
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Antigonus’ other significant action that winter to disband Antigenes’ veterans. Some were sent east, others settled in the west during his return in the Spring of 316.
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Antigonus Returns West
In the Spring of 316, with the whole of Alexander’s eastern Empire – except Egypt – under his rule, Antigonus left Ecbatana, travelling first to Persepolis. There, he confirmed the eastern satraps in their posts, and removed Peucestas from his. As per Waterfield (p. 105), that Peucestas wasn’t executed along with Eumenes and Antigenes very likely means he was indeed turned by Antigonus before the final battle.
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Deprived of his satrapy, Peucestas joined Antigonus’ staff; Waterfield reports (ibid) that he was still known to be alive in the 290s, by which time he was on Demetrius Poliorcetes’ staff.
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From Persepolis, Antigonus traveled to Susa where he collected its treasury. Upon his arrival in Babylonia, Seleucus – who had returned ahead of Antgionus – hailed him as a king. I wonder why? Was he being fawning or subversive? After all, despite behaving like a king, Antigonus didn’t call himself one lest it upset his Macedonian (and still pro-Argead) soldiers. Having said that, Antigonus did permit his Persian followers to acclaim him as the successor of the Archaemenids. I’m not sure that Seleucus was trying to plant a seed in the Macedonian soldiers minds, but with the Successors you can never be sure.
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Whatever the reason, it either did not stop Antigonus from demanding that Seleucus give an account of the finances and his administration of his satrapy or led to it. Seleucus – no doubt gently – reminded Antigonus that Babylonia was his satrapy by right; the only people he was accountable to was Alexander IV and Philip Arrhidaeus. Like Belshazzar, however, Seleucus saw the writing on the wall; unlike his predecessor, he understood what it meant, and even as he spoke to Antigonus, he made plans to flee Babylon, which he did, travelling with his family to Egypt.
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Once there, Seleucus warned Ptolemy that Antigonus wanted Alexander’s empire for himself. Ptolemy wrote to Cassander and Lysimachus asking for their assistance in restoring Seleucus to his satrapy. Antigonus also wrote to the Successors demanding that they honour the Triparadeisus Agreement – though which part of it, I am not sure, as that confirmed Seleucus as satrap of Babylonia.
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Anyway, Antigonus spent the winter of 316/5 in Cilicia. While there he received another letter from the Successors containing a series of demands. They were that Babylonia be given back to Seleucus, that the spoils of his war with Eumenes and the eastern bullion be shared out, that Lysimachus be given Hellespontine Phrygia, that Ptolemy be recognised as ruler of Palestine and Phœnicia, and that Cassander be given Cappadocia and Lydia.
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Unsurprisingly, Antigonus rejected these demands. In doing so, he set the stage for the Third War of the Diadochi.
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Here is a list of Successors killed between 318-15 BC
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Arrhidaeus
– Cius, Asia Minor 318
Nicanor – Piraeus 318
White Cleitus – Thrace 318
Philip Arrhidaeus – Pydna 317
Adea Euridike
– Pydna 317
Nicanor son of Antipater – 317
Eumenes 
– Gabene 317/6
Antigenes – Gabene 317/6
Peithon – Ecbatana 316
Olympias – Pydna 316
Aristonous – Pydna 316

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